7 Habits of Highly Fit and Lean People

Many people assume there's some mystifying secret to weight loss. When looking at fit celebrities, and even neighbors or co-workers, men and women commonly ask: “What’s their secret?” or “How can I look like that?” While searching for these “secrets,” people often overlook the simplicity of adopting healthy lifestyle habits that support a slim waist and healthy weight. While different strategies work for different people, scientific evidence indicates that individuals who effectively maintain a lean shape over time stick to similar eating and activity habits. Other than a few genetic variations, there aren't many physiological differences between you and your slim neighbor – it all comes down to habits that promote a healthy weight. If you're attempting to lose weight, use your healthy counterparts as inspiration. If they can do it, so can you. Use these 13 healthy habits as a road map to achieving a healthy, lean figure.

1. Keep it real

You can't go from couch potato to Iron Man racing. At least not quickly. Yoga guru and author Sadie Nardini (The 21-Day Yoga Body, Random House), says a friend's relationship advice inspired her fitness routine. "Don't act like today is all you have," the friend advised. "Assume 30 years." For Nardini, that means making fitness part of her everyday life rather than trying to add yet another thing to the to-do list. "Make your fitness routine an organic part of your lifestyle," she says. "Create each day (or so) around something healthy you can fit in without having to make sweeping changes. Start naturally. After work, go for a walk. Or do 20 minutes of yoga that challenges you without overwhelming your body. Increase if and when it feels possible, but allow yourself to look at the big picture, and take actions that will benefit you for the long run, not just the smaller moment at hand."

2. Pair up

Sometimes you need that extra kick. "I met someone who I had to work really hard to keep up with," says Chelsey Magness, a professional acrobat. "I wanted to see how long it would take until [he was] working hard to keep up with me." She says that training, playing and exploring together helps them stay fit as a couple, physically as well as mentally and emotionally.

3. Eat a smart breakfast

Individuals who start their day off with breakfast have a reduced risk of weight gain. In a study that included 20,000 middle-aged men, researchers found that breakfast consumption was inversely associated with weight gain over 10 years. That might explain why 78 percent of individuals from the National Weight Control Registry report eating breakfast every morning. Don’t settle for a small granola bar to fill you up. Get in the habit of eating a smart breakfast, meaning one that is substantial enough to fuel your energy all morning. Smart breakfast choices include a good balance of healthy fat, lean protein and carbs, like an egg white omelet cooked with olive oil and sauteed spinach.

4. Workout no matter what!

A short gym routine is better than nothing if you're really strapped for time or just plain exhausted. If you don't have time to get to your gym but have 15 minutes before you have to shower to go meet your friends for dinner, do jumping jacks to Taylor Swift or something. You'll feel better, especially if you spent your day sitting at a computer listening to Taylor Swift and thinking about how you should really leave work in time to get to the gym. (But then, well, didn't.)

5. Find pleasure in the process

Masterpieces aren’t created in a day. Literary classics aren’t manifested overnight. Weight loss isn’t accomplished in a week. All remarkable feats take time and patience, and become realities through a series of small, simple steps. Individuals who thrive in life and fitness know that chasing short cuts and seeking the easy way are just temporary bandages for their problems. Just as a levee will eventually break under a certain amount of pressure, your stop-gap "bandage" will eventually unravel.

6. Set goals

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The same is true of fitness. "Setting short-term goals allows you to stay motivated," says former professional ice skater Jason Cotnoir. But he's quick to add, "leave yesterday behind. Don't let your past missteps affect your present. Many people get discouraged if they miss a workout or eat something they were trying to avoid. When this happens, people tend to feel like a failure [which] can quickly derail you from your goals. It's important to know that you can only control what happens today!"

7. Don't wait for occasions

If you only rush to the gym six weeks before you have a tight dress to wear to a party (or your wedding or somebody else's wedding) you'll kill yourself trying to meet unrealistic goals and feel miserable and down on yourself and be no fun at all. Then when it's all over, of course you won't want to go back to working out! Fitness is a lifestyle, not an exercise in vanity.

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